Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Best D-SLRs For B&W
There’s more to getting a good black-and-white image than just shooting in color and doing a conversion. In the field, take advantage of your camera’s settings and you can unleash its inner TRI-X!
Samsung D-SLRs essentially provide the same monochrome features as Pentax D-SLRs, including, in the top-of-the-line GX-20 model, the ability to convert already-shot color images to monochrome in-camera and saving them under new names.
The virtual twin of the Pentax K20D, the GX-20 provides the same advantages and monochrome capabilities, accessed in the same manner. The in-camera image-processing engine is different, though, and the two cameras produce somewhat different images from the same Samsung/Pentax CMOS image sensor. We haven’t had a chance to use the GX-20 yet, but expect that its monochrome performance would be very similar to the K20D’s, which is very good.
Sigma’s SD14 doesn’t have a monochrome mode (the unique Foveon X3 full-color-capture sensor’s forte being color), but the color images convert beautifully to monochrome using Sigma Photo Pro or other image-processing software.
Sony’s D-SLRs provide a Creative Style mode called Image Style, B/W. Select B/W, and you can shoot black-and-white images; select Sepia, and you can shoot sepia-toned images.
Sony D-SLRs do monochrome via their Creative Styles feature. The DSLR-A900 is our favorite, for its class-leading 24.6-megapixel resolution, full-frame Sony CMOS sensor, effective five-step Dynamic Range Optimizer and 3-inch, 921,000-dot LCD monitor. The A900 doesn’t have a true Live View mode, but its Intelligent Preview function lets you see effects of such things as white balance, Dynamic Range Optimizer and exposure compensation in real time, without filling your memory card with test images. To get monochrome images, select B/W (or Sepia, if you prefer sepia-tone monochrome images) from the Creative Style menu. If you activate Intelligent Preview after engaging B/W or Sepia mode, the B/W or Sepia image will appear on the LCD monitor. There are no built-in colored filter effects but, of course, you can use real colored filters as black-and-white film photographers do.
What Is Monochrome?
“Monochrome” means “one color.” A monochrome print consists of one color on the white paper base. Generally that color is black (in various densities from black through very light gray). It also can be black tones with a warm (brownish) or cold (bluish) tone, or sepia, or any single color. For this article, we use the terms “black-and-white” and “monochrome” interchangeably.
Converting Color Images To B&W
There are lots of ways you can convert a color image to black-and-white. Photoshop offers several. The two simplest—change the mode to Grayscale (Image > Mode > Grayscale) or move the Saturation slider all the way to the left (Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation)—are easy, but offer little control. You can get a bit more variety by using the Channels palette: Click on the Red, Green and Blue channels to see if one gives the look you want; if it does, go to Image > Mode > Grayscale and save it as a new file.
Probably the best way to convert a color image to black-and-white in Photoshop is by using the Channel Mixer (Image > Adjustments > Channel Mixer). Click the Monochrome box, and you get a black-and-white image. You then can adjust the three sliders to adjust Red, Green and Blue, remembering that moving the Red slider right makes red tones lighter and to the left darker, moving the green slider to the right makes green tones lighter and to the left darker, and moving the blue slider to the right makes blue tones lighter and to the left darker. It’s a good idea to keep the percentages of red, green and blue combined around 100, but some images might work better with a little higher total (for a brighter image) or a little lower total percent (for a darker image).
Other image-editing software (Adobe Camera Raw and Apple Aperture are popular ones) offers various means of converting color images to black-and-white; experiment with yours to see what gives the best results for a given image.
There’s also special black-and-white software, such as Nik Silver Efex Pro and Alien Skin Exposure 2, which provides extensive conversion tools, including the “looks” of classic black-and-white films.
We don’t have space here to cover every possibility for converting color images to black-and-white. For more ideas, see our sister publication Digital Photo Pro’s website: www.digitalphotopro.com/technique/software-technique.html and scan the pages.
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